Blues Brothers 2000

The Real Y2K Bug

If you’ve never been to Chicago, but want to know what it’s like, see The Blues Brothers. It’s the only film that has accurately captured the look, sound and smell of the London of the Midwest, right down to its multilayered  melting pot accents. This is one of the reasons it’s always been one of my favorite films. Another is because it worships, celebrates, and even parodies the greatest style of music that god has deigned to bestow upon this undeserving planet. The Blues has little to do with knowledge and a lot to do with enthusiasm.

The work of director John Landis are the same way. His best movies are like big, playful dogs – sloppy, clumsy, maybe even stupid, but ultimately and irresistibly lovable. He often uses non-actors in speaking parts, just because it’s fun to have them in the picture. If Landis has his heart in his work, it’s obvious in the result. If he’s disinterested, then you will be too.

I approached this sequel with extreme caution. It’s always dangerous to try to match a classic, and this one had a major strike against it from the start – the fact that one of the leads is dead. Making a Blues Brothers movie without John Belushi is like a sideshow attraction featuring a separated Siamese twin – there’s no point to it with only half the act, and trying to tie on a replacement twin is just plain insulting.

Dan Aykroyd returns as Elwood P. Blues, just let out of prison and informed of his brother Jake’s death. I guess Elwood got a stiffer sentence from their previous misadventure because he was driving. Of course, he intends to put the band back together, but first he gets a new Bluesmobile, and picks up some new brothers. Buster (J. Evan Bonifant) is a kid from his old orphanage entrusted to Elwood’s care for a few hours (but he never thinks to take him back and is charged with kidnapping). Mack (John Goodman) is a dumb bartender with very little personality that gets into the band because Elwood thinks he can sing. And Cab (Joe Morton – surprisingly the best singer in the bunch) is the illegitimate son of the Blues’ late mentor Curtis – and an Illinois State Police officer, who only “sees the light” and joins the band after a miraculous religious experience. Before you know it, Elwood and the band are off on a quest to win a battle of the bands in New Orleans, while trying to stay ahead of the coppers and the Russian Mafia. Along the way, they meet up with just about every living great Blues legend, some hot young talent, and Steve Winwood (?).

Aside from the setback of having a giant hole in the cast where Belushi should be, this all might have worked except for one thing: instead of being on “a mission from God” to save the orphanage like in the original, here the brothers are simply trying to get a job. Not enough motivation is given to forgive the reckless driving and ignorant behavior they engage in. Plus, a lot of the jokes just don’t work.

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